Contreras salutes fans, helps Cubs win 6th in row, top Bucs

David Banks-USA TODAY Sports
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CHICAGO — Willson Contreras drew a standing ovation in perhaps his last home game at Wrigley Field, then keyed an early burst as the Chicago Cubs beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 4-2 Tuesday for their season-high sixth straight win.

Contreras, one of three members left from the 2016 World Series title team, tipped his cap after being cheered at the plate his first time up. He hit a soft single to center field in a three-run first inning off Bryse Wilson (1-6).

Contreras, an All-Star catcher who can become a free agent after this season, has acknowledged this might be his last homestand as a member of the Cubs before the Aug. 2 trade deadline. He saluted the fans with a fist in his last at-bat in the seventh but struck out against reliever Tyler Beede.

Representatives from the Blue Jays and White Sox were in attendance.

Seiya Suzuki, Ian Happ and Nico Hoerner hit consecutive doubles in the first to give Keegan Thompson (8-4) ample run support. Suzuki provided insurance with a homer in the eighth off reliever Will Crowe.

Thompson went a career-high seven innings.

Mychal Givens pitched the ninth to earn his second save. Closer David Robertson wasn’t used for the second consecutive game after earning a win and save Saturday and Sunday at Philadelphia.

The Cubs have (40-57) have their best winning streak since taking seven in a row last Aug. 31-Sept. 6.

The Pirates have lost four of five.

Thompson retired 16 of 18 batters before Hoerner committed a fielding error at shortstop with one out in the seventh, and 6-foot-7 rookie Oneil Cruz followed later with a two-run homer to center field.

Thompson completed the inning without further damage to top his previous high of 6 1/3 innings against the Reds on June 28.

Since the All-Star break, Cubs starters are 2-0 with a 2.03 ERA. Thompson has allowed two earned runs or fewer in five of his last seven starts.

After Hoerner’s double, Wilson retired 14 of the next 17 hitters.

THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES?

Cubs manager David Ross acknowledged that Contreras looked distracted during Monday’s game, in which he shed tears later after being asked to reflect on his seven seasons with the team.

“When he came up, he was a happy young man, lot of smiling, fitting in very easily, showing off the absolute cannon he had all the time,” Ross said of Contreras, who made his debut midway through the 2016 title season.

That was Ross’ final season as a player, and he recalled Contreras taking over his specific duties of catching veteran left-hander Jon Lester.

“It was a big deal when he caught Jon,” Ross said. “I know that was something he took pride in and probably learned a ton. I think you learn in the moment as much as I’ve noticed a growth in him in being able to read the game.”

UP NEXT

The Pirates will send RHP Zach Thompson (3-7, 4.64) when they open a four-game series Thursday against the Phillies.

The Cubs will start LHP Justin Steele (4-6, 4.02) in the first game of a four-game series Thursday against the Giants. Steele allowed one run in five innings in a 15-2 win Friday over the Phillies.

Phillies’ Bryce Harper to miss start of season after elbow surgery

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PHILADELPHIA – Phillies slugger Bryce Harper will miss the start of the 2023 season after he had reconstructive right elbow surgery.

The operation was performed by Dr. Neal ElAttrache in Los Angeles.

Harper is expected to return to Philadelphia’s lineup as the designated hitter by the All-Star break. He could be back in right field by the end of the season, according to the team.

The 30-year-old Harper suffered a small ulnar collateral ligament tear in his elbow in April. He last played right field at Miami on April 16. He had a platelet-rich plasma injection in May and shifted to designated hitter.

Harper met Nov. 14 with ElAttrache, who determined the tear did not heal on its own, necessitating surgery.

Even with the elbow injury, Harper led the Phillies to their first World Series since 2009, where they lost in six games to Houston. He hit .349 with six homers and 13 RBIs in 17 postseason games.

In late June, Harper suffered a broken thumb when he was hit by a pitch and was sidelined for two months. The two-time NL MVP still hit .286 with 18 homers and 65 RBIs for the season.

Harper left Washington and signed a 13-year, $330 million contract with the Phillies in 2019. A seven-time All-Star, Harper has 285 career home runs.

With Harper out, the Phillies could use Nick Castellanos and Kyle Schwarber at designated hitter. J.T. Realmuto also could serve as the DH when he needs a break from his catching duties.